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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 15:18 GMT
Should Britain hand over Gibraltar?
Shared sovereignty over Gibraltar is set to be on the agenda during Anglo-Spanish talks in London.
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is due to meet his Spanish counterpart, Josep Pique, on Monday, as part of ongoing talks to decide the Rock's future.
Britain seized The Rock from Spain in 1704 and it has been a constant source of Anglo-Spanish friction. Both countries say they are now committed to resolving the dispute.
The two countries are hoping to reach agreement on a joint declaration by August.
But this would then have to be put to the people of Gibraltar in a referendum.
Do you think Britain should hand back Gibraltar to Spain? Should the people of Gibralter have the final say on their future?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I M, Spain
People here keep making comparisons with the Falklands and say that we could be giving them back! Britain won't for the simple reason that the Falklands is the Gateway to the Antarctic and, therefore, to the mineral wealth under the icecap. The very reason why Galtieri invaded and Thatcher responded.
I would like to reassure the people of Gibraltar that many people in Britain strongly support their desire for self-determination. The Labour government is obviously preparing some kind of stitch-up where the status quo is not an option; but I think they will be surprised by the volume of criticism when this comes out.
Why is it that the only occasions a British government ever seems to be particularly proactive in terms of sovereignty or the well-being of British subjects abroad is when defending the rights of a handful of hayseeds on some benighted guano-strewn rock like the Falklands or Gibraltar?
Such relics of a long-gone imperialist past are a political millstone and fiscal liability, and it is interesting to contrast the present puffery concerning negotiations with Spain over Gibraltar's future with our government's apparent disinterest in the alleged detention without trial of British citizens in Saudi Arabia.
Surely our esteemed "labour" government wouldn't let the interests of big business and the opportunity of yet more posturing on the international stage take precedence over the defence of (real) UK citizens?
Of course the Spanish should be allowed to tear up the Treaty of Utrecht - as long as they then concede their control of Catalonia, which was handed to them by that treaty.
And I can't really see that happening, can you?
The future of Gibraltar should be in the hands of the people who live there. Unfortunately politicians in Britain don't care about what the average person wants and they haven't done so for years. So it's goodbye Gibraltar and I'm sorry we no longer live in a democratic society. Look out the Falklands!
The very idea that the Gibraltarians would not have a say in this truly frightens me. What frightens me more is the insidious political agenda behind this whole deal. Tony Blair should be fired and replaced with someone that acts less like a Washington politician and more like a servant of the people of Great Britain.
The people of Gibraltar themselves should have the final say,this should not be used as a political tool.
The current negotiations are really nothing to get over-excited about. The UK government will ultimately leave the choice of secession to Spain to the Gibraltarians in a referendum. So what we see happening is merely diplomatic moves towards a formal settlement. Everyone knows that the a majority of Gibraltarians will vote to remain separate. Once this happens, the Spanish government will be obliged to respect the democratic wishes of the people of Gibraltar and it is likely then that Spanish claims will lose all credibility.
Discussing this subject with friends who live in Gibraltar, I've learned that only a very small percentage of the colony's population want anything to do with Spain whatsoever. They are however concerned by the implications leaving the EU would have for their home, and believe that the best option for Gibraltar's future would be for it to become part of the UK (rather than a colony), but with power devolved to its existing local assembly (similar to the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly, so that its day-to-day running is unaffected.
John M. Piris, Gibraltar
Gibraltarian's - watch your backs. Britain encouraged Britons to populate their colonies and so they went out by their tens of thousands, painted the map red and fought for Britain in two world wars. What makes 30, 000 Gibraltarian's think they are any different to 250,000 white Rhodesians who were sold down the river by Britain. Get your little boats ready, for expediency is surely the name of Britain's game.Take a peek over the fence to Zimbabwe - where tens of thousands are having generations of development undone - contributed to by none other than Peter Hain et al.
The Spanish have
several small Gibraltar-style colonies in
Morocco, including Ceuta and Malilla, yet
I don't hear them saying they will review
the status of these and various other
colonies they hold throughout the world.
The Gibraltarians should be given the
democratic right to decide their own
future. Gibraltar was ceded to Britain
in perpetuity by a legal treaty and they
have no valid claim on it at all.
Annette, UK (Gibraltarian)
I visited Spain and Gibraltar this spring past. Until this visit I had no particular preference whether Spain or The GIBS had control of this area. With the experiences that befell us later on our trip to Ceuta and other events in southern Spain it became all to apparent that the presence of Gibraltan culture in that critical part of the world was all to critical to the safety of any USA or British ships to be handed over to the Spanish alone. This part of the world is a powder keg. It is much less Spanish than it is Arabic and with the hostility of the 'anti-infidels' at this point in history this territory cannot be sacrificed. This piece of land has been occupied by the British in a substantial way by longer than it has by the Spanish. It's time for the GIBS to have their will acknowledged. Keep Spain out of Gibraltar. Protect the Mediterranean.
I've visited Gibraltar, and clearly the people don't want to be part of Spain. How can Spain demand Gibraltar when they continue to occupy Ceuta and Melilla?
Gibraltar is physically and historically part of Spain and should be returned to Spain if Britain want to have good relations and to put end to any future conflict with her European counterpart.
The Spanish enclave Llivia is inside France, by another treaty. Let's ask them if they want to be French?
After 300 years, Gibraltar is well and truly part of GB, it wouldn't matter if there was a treaty or not.
It seems not all European countries have given up hopes of expansion.
Bullying Gibraltar and doing secret deals is no way for respectable nations to be behaving. If they want an answer at any time, just ask the people of the island state. Gibraltarians feel passionately about this frustrating neglect of their right to be heard, and do not mince their words on the matter...
Oscar Davies, Gibraltar
I visited Gibraltar for the first time this summer and was stuck by the independence of the people. Our taxi driver said that they are not Spanish or British - they are Gibraltarian and Gibraltar belongs to Britain.
The King of Spain signed a treaty giving Gibraltar and its ports to Britain for all time..period.
Let the people of Gibraltar decide - that's democracy. It might even serve to remind Tony Blair that he is a servant of the people and not their master.
Friends and others in Spain often ask us what it is we have against the Spanish? The answer is "Nothing whatsoever, we like your country, your people and especially your food" but if you then ask them whether they would be happy to become British, French or anything else for that matter or if Ceuta and Melilla should belong to Morocco they are offended by the question! Unfortunately democracy in Spain is at its infancy stage and those elders that rule are obviously having great difficulty coming to terms with the true meaning of the word!
Sidney Skinner, Barbados
This is a decaying world we live in. All the ills that are now rampant around the world are the result of past conquests, mistakes and modern day complacency. We are all human beings of equal intelligence and rights. To negotiate the future of a people without due regard for their God given equal rights as inhabitants of this planet is contrary to all the democratic principles to which the world owes its survival. Britain and Spain should respect the wishes of the people of Gibraltar in self-representation at any talks regarding their future.
Here is a golden opportunity for Britain and Spain with Gibraltar's participation to show the world that they are true democracies capable of realizing workable solutions. A chance to build a model that the world will be proud of. I am sure that Spain would want to treat the people of Gibraltar with the same respect that they would want other nations to impart on the inhabitants of their own colonies.
With Blair in power (way too much power) it won't be long before he gives Gibraltar to Spain to satisfy his desire to take the Great out of GB and replace with United state (no not a typo) of Europe
Leave Gibraltar alone. A treaty is an agreement. The Spanish state ceded the territory under than treaty. If it's a worthless piece of paper why not screw up the Treaty of Rome, then we'd all be better off!
Hell no! The people of Gibraltar are British like anyone else in the UK. I can't see why this Labour Government is bowing to the pressure of the Spanish. They are your people remember? Your one of the most powerful countries in the world, and yet you can't even fight for their democracy. When all this time they stood by you in the past world wars. I'm sorry for the people of Gibraltar, I guess loyalty to the crown doesn't count in this Labour Government.
It seems to me that Mr Blair is so desperate to be Saviour of Europe that he wouldn't bat an eyelid at selling 30,000 British citizens down the river to ingratiate himself with the EU.
Louis Montegriffo, Gibraltar
Either the question of sovereignty over Gibraltar is a political problem or it is a legal one concerning the validity of the handover under the Treaty of Utrecht. If the former, the inhabitants of Gibraltar should decide democratically through their own political process which state they want to belong to. If the latter, the case belongs in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The statement of the Spanish foreign minister, which effectively rules out either solution unless it is clear in advance that the outcome of the procedure chosen is favourable to Spain, is unwise and not conducive to solving the dispute.
We Gibraltarians are accused of being trapped in a time-warp because we want to keep the status-quo and remain British Subjects as we have been for almost 300 years. Can Spain then be accused of being stuck in a time-warp also? At the end of the day, it is THEY who are creating an issue here by insisting on reviving their claim to our land because it was theirs before it was ceded IN PERPETUITY to the United Kingdom 300 years ago. The logical solution is if they leave us alone the problem will cease to exist. What is it that makes the Spanish Government so intent in taking over our beloved Rock of Ages? The message to Spain is clear. Stop trying to bully us into submission. We are well used to your bully-boy tactics and oppression and WE will NEVER surrender!
Ray Marsh, Australia
Coming from a country which was itself partitioned I can sympathise with the Spanish claim to Gibraltar. I mean, the Unionists in Northern Ireland are descended from English and Scottish colonists. The Gibraltarians are descended from immigrants from the UK, Genoa, Portugal and some Spanish etc. It's not playing fair when you create an artificial majority that didn't exist before just to get the majority you want to have an excuse to stay put in another person's country.
Daniel Rego, Margaret Thatcher handed Hong Kong back to China because she was legally obliged to: the British lease on it had expired. The treaty leading to Britain's ownership has not expired so there is no similar obligation to return Gibraltar to Spain. If we do so we are appeasing the expansionist policies of a European country which has barely left its fascist past behind. Not a good omen for future peace in the region.
If Britain under Thatcher was willing to hand Hong Kong over to the Communist Chinese, why not believe that they would hand over Gibraltar without a second thought?
Why is there even a discussion about this going on? The people of Gibraltar voted in 1967 in a democratic referendum to stay a part of Britain. Exactly what part of that doesn't Spain understand?
Actually, I think it would be a thorny
problem for Spain if Gibraltar was handed
back to them. We know that the vast majority
wish to remain with Britain which in turn
could fester into a majority of very
Simms. D., UK
Time and time again Spain has used bully-boy tactics to reverse the Treaty of Utrecht and they have failed because the Gibraltarians have refused to be part of Spain. They regard themselves as British as I am.
To hand them over to a Foreign Power against their wishes would be a breach of their Human Right to Self Determination.
If Spain wants to restrict the number of telephone lines into Gibraltar then I suggest that Gibraltar have their own numbering system as recognised by the ITU and drop a radio shot into Morocco and establish an IGF through them.
Every time that Spain resorts to bully tactics a way should be found to circumnavigate them and legal action taken through the European Courts.
Gibraltar is of strategic importance to Britain so the inhabitants of the rock must decide. Hmmm. I wonder what our attitude would be if the Gibraltarians actually wanted to be Spanish? Personally I think we should re-take Calais as then we could have complete control over who goes in and out of the Channel tunnel, just like we used to do with shipping in the old days!
Andy G.M Wood, UK (London)
There are number of people in this debate who claim "they are both part of the EU so why does it matter?". It matters a great deal: The treaties that make Gibraltar part of the EU do not give the other EU members any right to her sovereignty. The only treaty which matters is the Treaty of Utrecht - which clearly states that Gibraltar belong
to the UK forever.
This is part of what the CIA internet site says about Gibraltar- Background: Strategically important, Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain by Spain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht; the British garrison was formally declared a colony in 1830. In a 1967 referendum, Gibraltarians ignored Spanish pressure and voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency.
Need we discuss further? If the land area of 6.5 sq km (CIA: about 11 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC) is so important to Spain (504,782 sq km water & land - note: includes Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, and five places of sovereignty on and off the coast of Morocco - Ceuta, Melilla, Islas Chafarinas, Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera), might I suggest that the UK Government buys them an equally large slice of Portugal, which is geographically just as close.
Britain and Spain are very responsible nations and can always solve minor disputes very amicably, keeping in view the interests of the peoples of the two nations. All the same, a referendum should be held to seek the opinion of the people of Gibraltar, thus leaving no scope for any misunderstanding. Since the occupation dates back to early 18th century, it has historical significance too and must be a blend of two cultures. The decision of handing over the rock to Spain should in no way affect its rich cultural heritage.
To those that say "ask the current residents", I ask you, "Were the residents in 1704 asked if they wanted to leave Spain?"
If you take over a piece of land, plant your own people there, and then insist on letting those people choose, isn't that basically rigging the vote?
Adrian Segovia, Gibraltarian living in USA
Like all nationalistic arguments, this is idiotic and pointless. However, from a logical viewpoint Spain has no legitimate claim to Gibraltar. Modern Spain did not exist until the unification of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castille in 1516. Therefore, Britain has had Gibraltar longer than Spain and has the more valid claim to sovereignty.
Gibraltar, Northern Ireland, the Falklands, ... all belong to Britain's 'glorious' past. Time has moved on and now it's Uncle Sam that rules the waves. All remnants of the British Empire should be handed back and perhaps then England could realise that it's future is in the European Community of nations and not in some mid-Atlantic dreamworld, hanging on to some distant past.
I don't see why Gibraltar, along with any other disputed areas within Europe, can't be governed directly from Brussels, with a local federal parliament having the power of veto on regional issues. You don't hear about territorial disputes existing between New York and Pennsylvania do you?
We are told that the government is not considering surrendering Gibraltar to The Spanish. So what are the talks for if not to discuss this very question?
The Gibraltarians should feel very frightened if this government's past record is anything to go by. Tony Blair will sell Gibraltar tomorrow if he thinks it will further his cause to be President of Europe one day.
Gibraltar beware - don't trust the British Government. They are using you for their purposes.
DRP, Sheffield, England
Fair is fair. Britain should return Gibraltar to Spain when Spain returns Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco.
Britain and Spain should both comply with the wishes of the Gibraltarians. It really is as simple as that. However, if we are going to start grabbing bits of the EU indiscriminately, bags me a chunk of the South of France!
It's for the people of the Rock to decide, Tony and Jack shouldn't be allowed to do deals using Gibraltar like a gambling chip in order to further their own careers.
Of course the inhabitants should decide. Spain has Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. I doubt if their inhabitants would be any more thrilled about becoming Moroccan than Gibraltarians would be about having to become Spanish.
Gibraltar has now been British for longer than it has been Spanish. I don't think that Spain has any sort of a valid claim on it.
Spain should be concerned over issues that matter such as their deplorable 'sport' of bull fighting. Gibraltar is a settled, democratic society, happy with its present role and place in the world. It should be left up to its inhabitants to choose their links.
John Borda, UK (Gibraltarian)
Unless the Spanish Government are prepared to relinquish their hold over the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco at the same time it would seem that the principles of sovereignty only matter when an EU country is involved.
Maybe Britain should put in a counter claim for the Canary Isles. After all many Brits live and holiday there and they would make a nice addition to our collection of island territories!
What does keeping Gibraltar cost us? What do we get for our money? Its strategic importance has waned in the nuclear age.
I wonder how the majority of Brits would feel if a part of Cornwall was French for example, or if the Isle of Wight was Spanish. Sure, people can point out territory that the Spanish owned in the 17th and 18th centuries, but surely the point there is that this territory was returned. There are historical territories but there are also geographical ones. Mind you, don't the Spanish have a similar situation themselves with Ceuta in Morroco? Let's face it, a large proportion of the residents of Gibraltar are a breed of ex-pat wanting to live in a tax-free environment - the kind of environment which has no place in a modern day Europe.
It shouldn't be up to the government now to decide but the people. Gibraltar guards the entrance to the Mediterranean after all so it is important for military reasons too and shouldn't just be handed back.
Let the people of Gibraltar decide by a referendum.
It should be up to the people to decide their own fate as democracy demands. They should be given three choices: Spain, the UK, or independence. I would demand nothing less, so why should they accept less.
Of course the Spanish should get Gibraltar back. And why shouldn't they have Belgium, the southern half of Italy, Mexico, South America and the Philippines as well. After all, these were all Spanish possessions when Gibraltar was.
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